KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad paid tribute to civil servants for their work and contributions in helping the country to develop despite his scolding them.
Speaking at what he said was probably his “last encounter” as Prime Minister with top civil servants, he told them:
“I have criticised people. I have scolded people but it is part of the interaction that we have. Civil servants have done very well indeed,” he said at the IV Civil Service ceremony at Intan and the opening of its management technology centre.
He thanked the civil service and administration for helping him in his 21 years as Prime Minister, adding: “You have to tolerate me for the next 10 months.”
He said that in the United States when a president is in his second term in office, he is viewed as a “lame duck” president.
And because the president is on the way out, he said, people would not take his instructions and things would not run so well.
Referring to his own case, Dr Mahathir, who had said he would resign in October, added: “If I make a decision, people still implement it. So I have every reason to be grateful.”
He also urged the civil service to be efficient and resist corruption.
“Yes, I admit, to a certain extent there is corruption, but the fact is, the corruption is minimum,” he said.
Later at a press conference, he said he was “quite satisfied” with the standards, improvement and quality of the civil service, adding, however, that he was never satisfied with anything and always wanted to upgrade performance and efficiency.
He also poured scorn on British military expert Tim Huxley’s claim that Malaysia could fall to Singapore in a matter of hours if the two countries went to war.
“We’ll see. The proof of the cake is in the eating, as they say,” the Prime Minister said when asked to comment on Huxley’s book, Defending the Lion City, the Armed Forces of Singapore.
Dr Mahathir said that it was basically the ground forces that counted.
He said a country in war could either bomb the whole place out of existence or fight on the ground.
He cited the example of Germany having conquered France during the Second World War but having to give up in the end as well as Japan having to give up Malaysia.
“So you can’t take other people’s country,” he said.
To a question why Malaysia and Singapore were speaking the “language of war,” he said: “We don’t. It is the press that keeps on asking us, so we have to respond.”
On the collision of the Singapore warship with a container ship in the Singapore Straits near Pulau Batu Putih on Saturday, Dr Mahathir said that “accidents happen”.
Asked about the two Malaysians who were not allowed to enter Australia after airport officials there suspected them of being terrorists, he said: “I expected this to happen because they see anybody who is a bit coloured and has a moustache looks like Saddam (Hussein) and they all arrest. That is their way.”
Earlier, during a closed-door dialogue with the participants, Dr Mahathir praised Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, his economic adviser on financial matters, for providing valuable advice in the aftermath of the 1997-98 regional financial crisis.
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